For World Breastfeeding Week 2022, we've asked a variety of people how they support and promote breastfeeding. Valerie Flax of RTI International is a Senior Research Public Health Analyst. This is how Dr. Flax supports breastfeeding.
“Research provides the evidence to design programs and to show governments and others the wisdom of allocating funding, showing them that a particular intervention really works.”
“Research generates evidence to design programs to support breastfeeding. We know that women play the main role in breastfeeding, but there are lots of people around them who influence their behavior, especially the children’s fathers and the women’s own mothers. So, we’re trying to get information from not only mothers but from those key influencers to understand the social norms related to breastfeeding.
“We conduct formative research at the beginning of programs to gather information that can be used to understand the context and design breastfeeding interventions. We also conduct surveys and collect qualitative data over time to understand how social norms, knowledge, and attitudes are changing and how programs impact breastfeeding practices.
“One thing I’m very passionate about is designing breastfeeding interventions that are layered on other programs – on microfinance, savings, or poverty graduation programs. There are literally hundreds of thousands of savings groups all over the world and a lot of the members are women – probably 75% are women – and they touch literally millions and millions of people. Why are we not taking advantage of that? My colleagues and I have designed and tested some of these types of programs in Malawi and Nigeria, but more research is needed to understand how to better implement effective layered breastfeeding programming.
“Research provides the evidence to design programs and to show governments and others the wisdom of allocating funding, showing them that a particular intervention really works. That’s the ultimate goal – finding out what works.”
I love this article. Thank you Dr Flax for continuing your research! I hope people are using your findings to improve the support for mothers and breastfeeding.